In this next to last installment of Grace Rests Easily Where Sin Once Sat, Paul challenges us to be faithful to God, to employ godliness in our lives, and that it is completely different than the way the rest of the world is.
Don’t Be Like Everyone Else – Romans 12:2a
When Paul writes, don’t conform to the world. What does he mean? There are a couple of things we need to qualify to fully understand what he means.
1st – What Paul means by “the world.” When the Bible refers to “the world” it doesn’t usually refer to the globe that is the earth, but what the way of living is on this world. The world is the way of life, of living; attitudes, actions, thoughts, deeds, methods, hopes, fears – everything that is not of God: Idolatry, atheism, agnosticism, non-Biblical and anti-God philosophies, and of course sin and sinfulness.
The world is the way you were before you were in Christ and received grace. Everything that is against God and contrary to God’s revealed will and ways. That is what is known as worldly.
2nd – What Paul means by “conform.” Conformity is “going along with.” It is choosing to become like the world. So young girls dress like J-Lo, and everyone wants to be on American Idol, and they want to be like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. They are conforming to the morals of the day; that homosexuality is normal and acceptable, that Christianity is silly and that Church is useless, and it goes on and on.
Paul warns us, “Do not be CONFORMED any longer to the WORLD.
It is so easy to fall into the trap that the world sets for us. Temptations are always in front of us. The people we encounter at our jobs, or at the Senior Center, or in any number of situations that could possibly influence us may be where the temptations come from.
And of course there is always the media, TV, radio, the Internet, video games, music, magazines, etc. There is very little available that is Christian on TV, there is some on radio, virtually none that are video games, there is a lot of Christian music, and there are several Christian magazines and books. The media has a huge impact on our lives. Since most of it is not Christian in orientation, we must beware because it is a primary means by which we are drawn into conforming ourselves to the world.
But we have to follow Paul’s instructions from verse 1. Choose to become living sacrifices. Lay our lives in God’s hands and live that life.
BECOME THE BUTTERFLY – Romans 12:2b
We know about caterpillars. At some point in their life-cycle, they go into a cocoon. After a period of time, they cease being caterpillars and become butterflies.
My wife and I saw one that kept landing on the toy golf club our 16 month old grandson was carrying around the yard one day. It was once a crawly critter, but through metamorphosis, it became something completely different.
Paul uses the word “transform.” That word is the word metamorphosis. There is a change in composition, and structure, and substance. That caterpillar is different in every single way.
We are to be transformed.
Transformation as a Christian means a change in the spiritual and the mental substance of who we are, what we think and the way we think, how we act, and even the way we feel about things, our emotions. Our thinking changes, our values are higher, our motivations are self-less and God-driven. Our emotions are controlled by holiness, and not by feeling, our hopes are eternal and not material.
I think you see the point of transformation and the direction of Godly transformation. But deciding to become this way isn’t enough for it to happen in our lives. We need help. And we have it.
Renew your mind.
This is not a brain transplant in the literal sense. It is a brain transplant in the spiritual sense. God changing us from within! How does that happen?
Let me first illustrate renewing of the mind:
Craig Barnes, a minister in Washington, DC, tells of a time when his father who was a minister brought home a 12-year-old boy named Roger, whose parents had died from a drug overdose. There was no one to care for Roger, so Craig’s folks decided they’d just raise Roger as if he were one of their own sons.
At first it was quite difficult for Roger to adjust to his new home–an environment free of heroine-addicted adults! Every day, several times a day, Craig heard his parents saying to Roger:
“No, no. That’s not how we behave in this family.”
“No, no. You don’t have to scream or fight or hurt other people to get what you want.”
“No, no, Roger, we expect you to show respect in this family.”
And in time Roger began to change.
Now, did Roger have to make all those changes in order to become a part of the family? No. He was made a part of the family simply by the grace of Craig’s father. But did he then have to do a lot of hard work because he was in the family? You bet he did. It was tough for him to change, and he had to work at it. But he was motivated by gratitude for the incredible love he had received.
Do you have a lot of hard work to do now that the Spirit has adopted you into God’s family? Certainly. But not in order to become a son or a daughter of the heavenly Father. No, you make those changes because you are a son or daughter. And every time you start to revert back to the old addictions to sin, the Holy Spirit will say to you, “No, no. That’s not how we act in this family.” Craig Barnes, author and pastor of National Presbyterian Church; Washington, D.C.; from sermon “The Blessed Trinity” (5-30-99)
We are in the family of God and the way of living that each member of the Christian family is to live is provided in Scripture, empowered by God’s Spirit in our lives, and even the example and encouragement of the other family members in God’s family. We learn, we follow, we obey, we change through practice, by the change in our will, and our own determination, and our hearts, and minds, our ways change, they are transformed, but back to the way we were meant to be at creation, taking us away from the unnatural, the way of sin, of unholiness, into holy and righteous ways of living.
In so doing, we prove God’s word, God’s will, and God’s power to save and give life, because we are being transformed into the image of Christ, who we are told is the image of God. Colossians 1:15-17
Final installment, next week.